At a time when the world could benefit from a positive message of hope and unity, the first solar-powered flight around the globe has captured our collective imagination. While media attention is too often focused on conflict and division, it is inspiring to see a success story go viral that exemplifies what can be accomplished when we put our positive energy into partnership and collaboration, so that together we can create a brighter and happier tomorrow.
Landing Solar Impulse 2 in Abu Dhabi in the early hours of last Tuesday morning, pilot Bertrand Piccard completed an odyssey that few thought possible.
When the Solar Impulse team first looked for partners in their ambitious venture, many experts, including big players in the aviation industry, deemed their craft too light and too big to control. But the UAE leadership, Abu Dhabi, and Masdar, along with other strategic partners, backed the Swiss adventurers’ vision, and together they proved that, if you dare, the impossible can become the achievable.
The UAE has long been a catalyst encouraging breakthrough innovations that advance human progress, particularly in the area of energy and clean technology. Masdar was established to push the boundaries of thinking around sustainability. The collaboration with Solar Impulse is the latest example of the UAE’s commitment to continuing to raise the bar of what’s possible still higher.
Through the vision and with the support of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Abu Dhabi was the natural partner to act as the start and end point of this feat of jaw-dropping ingenuity.
Flying in a single seat, unpressurised cockpit at altitudes nearing 30,000 feet was a test of unprecedented bravery and endurance.
Co-founder and CEO Andre Borschberg flew the five-day leg from Japan to Hawaii, the longest continuous flight in aviation history, staying awake throughout, except for 20-minute naps, and keeping alert the rest of the time through meditation, self-hypnosis and sheer strength of will.
Power of the sun
The effort that helped take Solar Impulse from the drawing board to reality represented the very best of what can be achieved when people unite around a single purpose. With the wingspan of a 747 and the weight of a car, Solar Impulse 2 is a proof of concept not just of the harnessed power of the sun, but the transformative impact of light, composite materials and efficient design that aligns perfectly with the UAE’s drive to integrate clean technologies and renewables into a diversified global energy mix.
A cooperative venture between the UAE and Switzerland, it also highlighted both countries’ belief in a united response to find solutions to shared challenges and a resolve to build bridges between cultures for the benefit of all. Everywhere Solar Impulse 2 stopped along its historic 22,000 mile route, from the Middle East to the continents of Asia, North America, Europe and Africa, it was met with admiration and awe. It expanded our conception of what is possible, pushed back the limits of our imagination and inspired us to dream even bigger than before.
The UAE’s support of Solar Impulse illustrates our approach to being a global citizen committed to addressing global issues, and our willingness to take intelligent risks and to challenge conventional wisdom.
At a time when the differences between people are too often magnified, the partnership that brought Solar Impulse to life showed us that what unites humanity is more powerful than what divides us. When the world needs answers to ever more complex problems, it proved that amazing things can happen when people come together to overcome obstacles and that collaboration is the key to making strides for humankind.
The UAE is proud to be a value added partner to the Solar Impulse project and Abu Dhabi is honoured to have played a key role as its host city. Along with Masdar and the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), the Solar Impulse partnership is a concrete expression of our robust commitment to sustainable development.
This is where the ground-breaking journey began last year and ended last week, but while the historic flight may be over, the UAE’s commitment and drive towards helping find solutions to global challenges will continue without pause.
Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber is UAE Minister of State